Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Cooking Lesson: How (not) to Make Lasagne
About two weeks ago my neighbors had a death in the family. I decided to make them dinner. They have to eat, I figured. Food. It's a little port in the storm.
I got home late from taking the girl's to class, and following my hubby's suggestion to make life easier on myself, I bought a frozen lasagne.
BAD BAD BAD.
I wrestled my way through the discount grocery store with the girls and Jonah boy, struggled through the checkout stand, grappled my way through the loading-transporting-and-unloading of the groceries. Far later than planned, I scurried into the house, arms loaded, to shove the frozen lasagne into the oven.
Oh, wait... preheat.... no forget the preheat. The lasagne won't know the difference.
Now read the box. WHAT!?!?! 80 to 100 minutes??? Let's see, it's now 4:50, add 80 minutes, so sometime between 6:10 and 6:30... "Quick Ellie," I called, " run over and tell them I am going to be about 20 minutes late." I frosted the cake made earlier, made a salad and garlic bread then headed for the oven at the time dictated by the box.
It's 6:10. I opened the cover of the lasagne, dismayed at the sight of unmelted cheese. A finger poke to the center confirmed my frigid fears. Not only was it not cooked, the lasagne was still frozen in the middle.
I freaked out for about one solid minute, which included a over-exaggerated rant about "trying to be nice always backfiring", and a scavenge through the cupboards, presumably to look for the nice hot meal made by elves, miraculously hidden there. Next, I did the "burst" part of bursting into tears, but realizing there was no time, I jammed my gearshift into overdrive and said to Guy, who had come in mid-rant, "OK, let me think!"
I grabbed a casserole dish small enough to fit in the microwave. I cut the lasagne in half and plopped one side into the small dish and hustled it into the microwave. This could work. In about 8 minutes I had a pretty well thawed, and on the outside edges, cooked, lasagne. But now I had to get at that middle. Calling Guy, I grabbed a knife and chopped the pasta block down the center. Using two spatulas I hoisted 'half of the half' into the air, balanced and dripping on two spatulas. I (kindly but stress-ed-ly) rattled orders to Guy, who tipped the the dish toward the empty gap allowing the remaining lasagne fourth to schplop! into place, bringing it's cold part to the edge of the pan. A quick plop returned the semi-cooked quarter to its waiting thumb-puzzle place. Eight more minutes gave me a well "baked" half, and a rerun of the previous 16 minutes with the twin-half gifted me with a belated, but piping hot, Frankenstein lasagne. A pile of cheese melted by the broiler hid the scars of the patchwork casserole, and the little slops of sauce on the sides of the dish from the slip-n-slide routine gave the meal a convincing homemade-feel.
Forty-five minutes late and accompanied by a hidden humble pie, we trudged our belated offering across the lawns a few doors down; cake, salad, garlic bread ...and Frankenstein, bringing up the rear. The neighbors were kind and grateful. I was embarrassed. But at least it was done.
It wasn't homemade, but if you don't tell, I won't.
Sometimes our very best just happens to also be a sloppy mess. Frankly, there will always be something we could do better, if each thing we did were done in a vacuum. But it is not. We have laundry and driving and diapers and meals and phone calls and friends and pets and yards and tomoato-sauce-splattered kitchen floors that all need our attention.
So your best might just be terrible today, but if it is your best, that's is nothing to be ashamed of.
Just find a way to melt cheese on top.